The blame game; yesterday’s winners and losers…

ONE of the recurring themes on Slugger yesterday was how far an organisation is to blame for the actions of individual members – whether they’re Provos robbing banks or Orangemen murdering Catholics. Are there any reasons why a group will cop the flak for one person’s actions in some instances, but not others? It might be worth comparing the IMC’s reporting on IRA activity, which was largely positive, and the Kennaway extract on Orange Order activity – largely negative – for a moment.

First of all, it might be worth considering the historical context of the organisations attitudes towards criminal activity.

The IMC notes the republican movement’s apparent shift towards peaceful and democratic methods to achieve its aims, having previously been involved in horrific acts of terrorism. The IRA still doesn’t get a clean bill of health, but because the IMC sees measurable evidence of change away from criminality, the perception is one that is increasingly positive about the movement’s intent.

Elsewhere, Kennaway notes the Order’s apparent reluctance to deal with criminals within its ranks, by turning a blind eye to wrongdoing, despite professing to be guided by Godly principles. If members have indeed been disciplined, it certainly hasn’t been made public knowledge. Therefore, there can’t be any public confidence that the Order is upholding the high standard it has set itself in the past, when disciplinary outcomes were made widely known.

There seems little doubt that the Orange standard has been a double standard on far too many occasions in recent years. Those in the Order who continue to uphold its law-abiding principles must wonder what crime a member has to commit to be expelled, if murder isn’t worthy of discipline. Many unionists are fond of describing themselves as part of ‘a law-abiding community’, or saying ‘justice must be done, and be seen to be done’, but outsiders will continue to see that as paying lip service to these values if Kennaway’s points are dismissed as rubbish.

Both groups, however, have a tendency to close ranks, protect ‘their own’, excuse their wrongdoing, blame others or engage in ‘whataboutery’. In a tribal society like Northern Ireland, I suppose these kinds of group dynamics are depressingly predictable, and were clearly illustrated by the duplicitous republican reaction to, for example, the McCartney murder, or the reluctance of the Order to expel killers in its ranks.

It’s worth noting the difference in how Sinn Fein reacted to McCartney and how they reacted to the vodka heist, and the IMC placed much stock in the public pronouncements of Gerry Adams and how these words matched ongoing trends within republicanism. Both the above incidents were very likely unsanctioned by the IRA leadership. The McCartney issue continues to be a millstone round Adams’ neck, but when the SF leaders placed clear blue water between themselves and those IRA members allegedly involved in the heist (rather than equivocating, as is the usual response), it ceased to be a problem. Odd that a life should be valued less than a few crates of Smirnoff, but perhaps that’s as much to do with the personalities involved as anything.

Public regard for both groups fell when they failed to abide by either the rule of law or their own standards. Which brings us neatly on to the issue of leadership. Unionists were quite happy with IMC reports when they highlighted ongoing IRA activity, as it took pressure of them re-entering government with Sinn Fein. Now that the IMC has noted a strong republican leadership’s apparently extensive efforts to shift and manipulate the movement towards a culture of lawfulness, will they be so willing to take it at face value?

On the other side of the fence, the Orange leadership appears weak and unwilling to face the challenges that face it. But since instransigence has got it nowhere on the parades issue – unlike the Apprentice Boys, whose image has benefited hugely from taking the debate on positively – something will eventually give. A spineless, lazy or beaten opponent is easily ousted, if positive risks by courageous challengers reap demonstrable rewards.

I think it’s interesting to watch how the DUP have attempted to inject a more dynamic form of leadership recently. Some Orangemen might be content to walk up to a police line at Drumcree every year and get no further, but that hasn’t got them anywhere, literally. Their new traditional route stops at a row of PSNI officers. ‘Not an inch’ politics translates directly into ‘not an inch’ further down the road.

Some unionists seem more willing to call their opponents’ bluff or attempt to bring about change from within, for example, by joining the Parades Commission – a strategy which will be mirrored when Sinn Fein joins the Policing Board within the next year or two. These unionists seem to realise that the days of ‘all or nothing’ generally result in nothing.

The question is though, will half a loaf be better than none?

Just a few thoughts to kick off debate this morning…

  • Harry

    Who are these IMC characters anyway? Some sort of front for the political wishes of the british government? Nationalists are supposed to accept their role as enfants terrible, eyed critically by a more ‘responsible’ and ‘adult’ british/unionist establishment? The unionists and the british can blow it out their arse if they think they’re going to patronise almost a million irish people in their own home – Ireland – right into the 21st century.
    The message to unionists is simple – share power, before it’s too late.

  • missfitzslugging

    Someone must be watching us! The morning radio show is just asking if the differentiation is being clearly made between individuals and organisations.

    Perhaps we will be able to start some movement in this area.

  • carlos blancos

    an organisation can avoid taking the flak for renegage actions of its members by expelling those who commit the offences

  • piebald

    “those IRA members allegedly involved in the heist” BG

    “an organisation can avoid taking the flak for renegage actions of its members by expelling those who commit the offences” cb

    vodka heist = 1 ex member allegedly involved

    mccartney = 3 members expelled

    piebald

  • Some interesting points, BG, but, erm . . . ‘Provos robbing banks or Orangemen murdering Catholics’?! Can we accept, on a simple statistical basis that, of banks robbed (or indeed, of people murdered), Provos are involved an awful lot, and in their capacity as Provos? Whereas surely even the most blinked anti-Orangeman (and I rather fear I’m close to being an Orangeophobe myself) would have to admit – their raison d’etre is hardly bank robbing (or catholic murdering), and that, in their full corporate sense, they hardly if ever (never even?) do either?

  • mickhall

    There is one interesting point which this IMC report raises which no one seems to have touched upon. The report gives the PIRA leadership a clean bill of health. Now Tom Murphy allegedly sits at the pinnacle of this leadership; and of late he has been vilified in the media and net as one of Irelands foremost economic criminals. Has this been more a case of wishful thinking on the part of opponents of SF than anything factual. I am not talking about what the man was involved with in the past, but am asking does the clean bill of health he has been given by the IMC mean that much of the media has been on a witch hunt against him.

    regards

  • Ringo

    Mickhall

    I think this addresses it:

    on Pg15
    We believe that volunteers who had previously
    engaged in illegal fundraising have been told to refrain from doing so. That said,
    there are indications that some members, including some senior ones, (as distinct
    from the organisation itself) are still involved in crime, including offences such as
    fuel laundering, money laundering, extortion, tax evasion and smuggling.
    Some of
    these activities are deeply embedded in the culture of a number of communities, not
    least in the border areas, and increasing proportions of the proceeds may now be
    going to individuals rather than to the organisation.

  • mickhall

    ringo,

    Thanks, although I think what you posted is what a good lawyer would call a get out clause.[for the IMC] I find it difficult to understand how the man who allegedly commands the PIRA can fall into this catogry, unless that is he wears two hats. All we know about him suggests he takes his republicanism very seriously and too his responsibilties as a senior member of that organisation. It will be interesting to see if cash taken from companies he appears to have links with is returned.

    All the best

  • Mick Fealty

    Mick,

    I’ve no strong views (or evidence) one way or the other, but a couple of things seems relevant, over and above Ringo’s point.

    One, is the importance of tense in the report. It reports on what’s occuring now, as opposed to the last term. That’s where they see their value, in terms of marking off discrete parcels of time. It is fairly pointed in its reference to the latent value of ‘laundered assets’ to the Republican movement in general. Personally I have an open mind on the matter, but it would be foolish to rule it out.

    Two, the ASA success in the high court yesterday may prove that the civil route is going to be more successful at uncovering organised criminality than criminal proceedings. The note concerning the pronounce reluctance of people to provide court evidence may demonstrate that criminal process is always going to be hamstrung from the beginning.

    For some time I’ve been working on the hunch that the McCartney killing did more serious short term damage to the RM than the Northern Bank.

    But as the NB and money laundering comes to court it is likely to do greater damage in the longer term. Not least, because it is likely to come through in a steady drip feed.

  • Joe

    Mick
    We have a classic Catch 22 situation here.
    If the PIRA use their old methods to enforce discipline, they’ll be damned. And if they do nothing, being committed to exclusively peaceful and democratic means, they’re still damned.
    We need to move forward together.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Joe: “If the PIRA use their old methods to enforce discipline, they’ll be damned. And if they do nothing, being committed to exclusively peaceful and democratic means, they’re still damned. ”

    Turn it around and look at it this way — despite the catch-22, PIRA is making much better progress towards “normal” behavior. Arguably, they are approaching a point where only those who are personally disposed to act in a criminal fashion will be committing violence or running the rackets. At that point, ideally, they can be jettisoned and reduced to simple criminals.

    On the other hand, the Unionist / Loyalist thugs seem content to shoot one another when other targets are unavailable and are still deeply involved in criminal activities on the individual and, presumably, the institutional level. Per BG’s original post, the Orange Order would appear to have some problems with criminality — Karl Rove’s argument that its more a hobby than normal business notwithstanding.

  • Joe

    Dread Cthulhu
    I don’t disagree in the least.
    It seems that a few former? PIRA members are supporting themselves illegally but, overall, the organization does seem superbly self-disciplined.
    Long may it continue.

  • Reader

    Dread Cthulhu: the Orange Order would appear to have some problems with criminality—Karl Rove’s argument that its more a hobby than normal business notwithstanding.
    Potentially, doesn’t every organisation have a problem with criminality? Is anyone collecting statistics on the Women’s Institute, the GAA, and the Rotarians? Which, if any of them, systematically expels convicted criminals?

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Reader: “Potentially, doesn’t every organisation have a problem with criminality? Is anyone collecting statistics on the Women’s Institute, the GAA, and the Rotarians? Which, if any of them, systematically expels convicted criminals.”

    Potentially, yes. That said, the Women’s Institute and Rotarians don’t usually throw at least one riot every summer, now do they? It increases the opportunites for criminality, as a minimum.